Spineless egg book

What is a book? A sequence within a cover? A study of form and time?

An egg is a body formed within a female body. What stories can an egg tell? What narratives are possible within an oval?

Monica hinged two egg-shell pieces to make a spineless book (see the feature image above). The endpapers are a decorated textile that line the inner shell. She will try a traditional marbled endpaper for the next egg book.

The pages are hand-dyed, cold-pressed watercolour paper cut into descending ovals threaded onto cotton floss. The dye was leftover from egg work at Easter.

How would you make a spineless egg book?

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Is this the start of something big for you?

Do you like gentle conversation? Can you handle a supportive, creative environment? Have you ever wanted to learn, or re-learn, to crochet?

If so, good news! Crochet an Octopus Class is on this Thursday. All completed octopi are donated to the neo-natal unit (see our earlier blog posts for more on this).

We have everything you need to get started. Message or comment for more information.

 

Mother of necessity

In 1974, John Petrakes, a Patent Examiner in the USA, approved the patent number 3855915. The invention was manufactured by MH Products (Inventors: Marjorie and Harold Hoyt from Shawnee Mission, Kanas).

In 2017, ‘Aunt Marge’s Egg Blower’ was dug out from the top of our baking cupboard and used to empty, dry and dye our chicken’s eggs in celebration of Easter.

Thanks Aunt Marge. And thank you to all the unnamed women who gave their time, and devoted their energy, to improving, inventing and fashioning for those of us in the future. Patented or not, we make our art today under the guard of your creative shadow.

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The cruelty of crewel work

At the Royal School of Needlework, London campus, Dianne has been working on her certification in Jacobean crewel work. The level of excellence required at RSN seems to involve as much sewing as it does unpicking. In this way, embroidery is a lot like writing. Writing, after all, is really rewriting.

When we ‘sew’ an embroidery stitch on canvas we do not ‘un-sew’ it. When we ‘write’ a word on a page we do not ‘un-write’. The words for these actions, ‘unpick’, ‘unravel’, ‘erase’, ‘edit out’ and so forth, are their own creative act. To remove an act of creation does not undo the creation. Our words of undoing reflect the new creation of erasure.

You have autonomy

Your autonomy, as the author of your ideas, is your locus of power. Autonomy is control over the form of your work. If you write, you do not have to write novels. If you sew, you do not have to sew garments. Your story, your ideas, your narrative, voice, words, thread will dictate their form to you.

Could The Bayeux Tapestry have been anything other than the form that it takes? Could it be other than seventy scenes embroidered on 68 metres of linen. No. Could The Merchant of Venice have been anything other than a tragicomedy? Could it be a three act play rather than five? No.

Your work—in textiles or text—shapes the commercial arm of your medium, not the other way round. For example, the long written narrative form we call ‘the novel’ did not emerge because Barnes & Noble needed merchandise they could sell for profit. No one held focus groups in the 4th century BCE to test if the long legs of an Etruscan bronze horse would sell well in Target. Crewel work, dying, carving, penning are activities done for the sake of themselves. That is their point, their purpose.

Some people scour fashion shows, or Kindle analytics, looking for the Next Big Thing; they chase trend waves to ride by producing passable commercial products generated for a market. Yes, there is a place in society for commercial needs to be fulfilled. Entertainment needs content. Let’s not, however, misname content production. Let’s not use words for content production like ‘weaving’, ‘writing’, ‘creating’ or ‘crafting’.

Write what has never been written before. Felt fibres that have never been struck before. Braid articles that have never been woven before. Make your own market.

 

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Crochet doily: a humble and enduring form

Today’s beautiful photographs shows some of Dianne’s contribution to a collaborative art project, Retro Galactic Communitree, installed in 2017-18. While part of the strangeness of the project generates it appeal, today’s post delves into the history of how a tree may come to be cloaked in looped yarn. When we look at the project we recognise a distinct crochet form from the past, the doily.

The crocheted doily, a small starched mat, reached production heights in the 1930s and 40s. Doilies were made by women in their home. The popularity of doily making is attributed to women’s desire to temporarily break from the weighty reality of economic depression and the volatile political environment. Rationing strategies of this period shaped the rise in doily as the small round mat could be made with a simple tool and minimal yarn.

The domestic commonness of doilies tends to mask their versatility and ingenuity. Doilies were often used as a table mat to protect wooden furniture, as chair covers such as an antimacassar, as covers to protect bowls and jars of conserves and chutneys, as plate ornaments and a framing device under cakes and sandwiches, and as cushions and bedspreads.

Doilies of this time were often made using one monochrome colour such as white or bone. This simplicity in colour is counter-balanced by tremendously complex geometric patterns in design. Doilies are deceptive; as a small-scale object they can appear to be a quick and easy project. Yet, this false sense of simpleness and ease betrays the skills of tension and stich which are only visible in a doily when absent.

Crocheted doilies have undergone a revival in recent years. Where original production in the 1930s and 40s reflected ideas of industrial processes and modernist ideals of precision and symmetry, many of today’s crocheted doilies seek to represent community, connection and the values of women’s hand-crafted labour. Doily yarn-bombing brings together ideas of protective cloaking, holding together and loops that gather women from the past and the present.

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Do crocheted octopi help babies in neonatal? Part Two.

As discussed in our last post, ‘The Tentacles for Tinies’ is a 2017 pilot study of the efficacy of using crocheted octopi in the neonatal unit of the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.

This week we will analyse the social and emotional findings of the study. In addition to measuring biological markers of the babies engaged in this study, the researchers surveyed impressions of the crocheted octopus project from parents of the subject babies. According to the report, 100% of parents surveyed said that they liked the project. More specifically, every surveyed parent reported

  • they perceived the project to be beneficial to their baby, and
  • the project helped them improve their involvement in their babies care.

Good-will, hope, confidence, encouragement are difficult to measure compared to heart-rate and blood pressure. It is, perhaps, unhelpful to seek validation of these positive qualities through quantification.

Other reports (not research studies) on the use of crocheted octopus reveal similar sentiments. For example, Poole Hospital in Dorset, England called for volunteers to crochet octopi to supply their babies in NICU. In response, an article in Modern Healthcare (20/2/17) says,

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the kind response to our appeal for crocheted octopi,” said Daniel Lockyer, matron of neonatal services. “Patients are already telling us that their babies seem calmer with an octopus friend to keep them company so we’re looking forward to continuing the project in the future.”

Similarly, TCA Regional News (5/1/19) reports from Thumbay Hospital Fujairah, UAE, that Mohammad Ali, father of a 33-week baby girl in the neonatal intensive care unit said,

“After being introduced to the crochet octopus last week, our baby seems to have become calmer and is responding well. I am thankful to the doctors and staff for this initiative.”

The perception of the babies as calmer is cited as anecdotal evidence which implies a degree of unreliability or untrustworthiness in the claims. Yet, is any other sort of reliable evidence possible under these circumstances? Is evidence of hope during hardship and peace during uncertainty even an appropriate request?

Returning to the social dimension of the study from Rotunda, Dublin highlights broader, immeasurable benefits. For example, some of the crochet volunteers had themselves experienced premature birth, birth complications or loss. Participating in the project, for these people, reportedly provided an unexpected positive therapeutic dimension. Similarly, staff at the hospital experienced community support in ways that were otherwise not possible.

The good in a human activity is not reliably measurable through a medical or scientific method. Accounting for the social aspects of the crocheted octopus project in a respectful and comprehensive fashion is complicated but worthwhile.

If you want to be involved in our Octopus Crochet project comment below or email for more information. Don’t know how to crochet? No problem. We’ll give you everything you need and support your every stitch.

Do crocheted octopi help babies in neonatal?

‘The Tentacles for Tinies’ is a 2017 pilot study of the efficacy of using crocheted octopi in the neonatal unit of the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.

Our analysis of the study shows that the findings are written up into two broad categories, biological findings and social findings. Today’s post will discuss the biological findings. Next week we will share our analysis of the social findings.

The biological findings were derived from measuring a range of each baby’s physical indicators both with and without interaction with an octopus. The study concludes that overall, the biological indicators such as heart-rate, did not significantly change between the two states (i.e. with and without an octopus companion).

It could be, on first reading of the physical results, easy to dismiss the presence of a crocheted octopus as having any physical benefit to the babies. This, however, is not an accurate conclusion. Firstly, the babies did not show any deterioration in physical indicators such as decreased oxygen absorption. No ill effect is a positive conclusion we can draw from the results.

Physical indicators from the babies were measured after only fifteen minutes of holding the octopus. Fifteen minutes, as a length of time, compared to the weeks, days and hours that babies are cared for in a neonatal environment, is a relatively short time. If you have ever been a patient in hospital you will remember that interventions, interruptions and monitoring at your bedside are more enduring than the experience of rest or recovery. Being in hospital is a busy and social experience. It is plausible to suggest that fifteen minutes cannot give any real picture of the physical benefit of an octopus companion.

Maybe, though, there are significant positive effects of the crocheted octopus which we do not have the tools to measure. There are some things in life that cannot and should not be measured. Our analysis of the social findings of the pilot study point in this direction.

If you are interested in having Part Two of this post sent directly to your inbox, or if you want to join our crusade in creative resistance, use the email subscription option below.

Ladybird, lady beetle, lady bug

As children, we learnt that to find a ladybird in the garden meant you’d found pure luck. Ladybirds were a good omen and would bear any wish we bestowed upon them. In France, if a ladybird lands on you, when she leaves she will take with her any ailment you were experiencing. In Switzerland it is the ladybird who brings babies, not a stork.

The ladybird family name coccinellids is derived from the Latin word for scarlet which is also where we get the word cochineal. These days, when we say cochineal we’re usually talking about a colour but it used to refer to deeply crimson dye made from the dried bodies of a species of insect.

The dome shape of the ladybird’s body perfectly echoes the aesthetics and shape of a regular shirt button. These buttons, designed and hand-embroidered by Dianne, are only 8mm in diameter. They are six little circles of happiness and good luck. We’re hoping to sell them in sets at a market stall in March.

We’d love to hear your ladybird stories. Do you have a cultural story about the meaning or special powers of the ladybird? Comment below, or email us.

 

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